The Adventures of Captain Tight-Pants

"A priest, a hooker, and a mental patient are hiding out on a spaceship that's run by a cowboy." Let's face it, nobody other than Joss Whedon, the mastermind behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, could make a thoroughly cool, enjoyable, and smart -- and, consequently, short-lived -- TV series whose premise sounds like a crappy, off-color joke. A friend of mine had convinced me to start watching Buffy on DVD several years ago (awhile after the show had ended), and I made it through three seasons plus the first season of Angel before I lost interest, and that had been the extent of my exposure to Whedon's work; I wasn't sufficiently intrigued by the premise of Dollhouse to even try it out.

What took me so long to give Firefly a spin, you ask? It certainly wasn't an aversion to Joss Whedon -- anyone who can keep a guy, who's not a fan of vampire stories, watching vampire stories for three-and-a-half seasons deserves major kudos. It has mostly to do with the fact that I like my sci-fi shows set in an idealistic future: the all-humankind-living-in-peace, I'd-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing optimism of the Star Trek Universe speaks to me in a way that the downbeat, war-torn dystopia of Battlestar Galactica and Stargate just don't. But the few bits of buzz on the web that I didn't ignore, the rave reviews from a pair of co-workers (who, aware of my geekdom, were visibly shocked at hearing I'd never seen it), and finally an unbeatable sale price of $20 for the DVD set, convinced me that I'd put it off long enough.

When I'd first heard that Firefly was in essence a sci-fi crossed with a western, I was understandably intrigued; the one thing that kept me from laughing at the concept was knowing that the only person who could pull it off was Joss Whedon ... and pull it off he did. An intricately steampunk-styled, warts-and-all cosmos, populated with a motley assemblage of all-too-human characters whose quick and acerbic wit, punctuated by "Mandarenglish" phrases borne of an imperialistic American-Chinese alliance, and their plucky attitude makes them difficult not to root for ... what's not to like? And leave it to Whedon to dare show the outer-space POV shots with no sound effects, as scientific accuracy would demand.

The things that make this show awesome don't end there. How about the presence of Ron Glass (yeah, the guy from Barney Miller!) in the cast, and the fact that it's got a country song, complete with a banjo, as its theme? For some reason, it's taken me until disc 3 to really get into the show, but now I can hardly wait to watch the rest of it (followed of course with the Serenity feature film) ... and probably re-watch the whole thing again. Mind you, I'm not nearly as in love with it as my beloved Star Trek, and probably never will be, but at this rate it's got a real shot at becoming a favorite.